Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED (FX) vs. Sigma 35mm F/1.4 ART – Conclusion

Started May 3, 2014 | Discussions
InTheMist
InTheMist Veteran Member • Posts: 3,078
Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED (FX) vs. Sigma 35mm F/1.4 ART – Conclusion
10

Hi Everyone,

After going back and forth for weeks about these two lenses, I've finally come to the definitive conclusion: The Nikkor is sharper at the edges of the frame, but the Sigma renders better at large apertures.

You may remember in a previous test, that I couldn't explain why the bokeh from the Sigma was larger.

In fact, I found that at equivalent apertures, set by my trusty D800, the Sigma had constantly shallower depth of field, bigger bokeh and usually faster shutter speed while the Nikkor was sharper away from the centre of the frame, and had deeper depth of field.

All examples shot using live-view autofocus, confirmed with multiple shots.

Nikon at f/11

Sigma at f/11

Nikon at f/1.8

Sigma at f/1.8

Nikkor at f/1.8

Nikon at f/8

Sigma at f/8

It took me nearly two days to investigate, so here is a link to my whole thought process and lots of example images and my conclusion on my blog.

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Nexu1 Senior Member • Posts: 2,746
Re: Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED (FX) vs. Sigma 35mm F/1.4 ART – Conclusion

InTheMist wrote:

It took me nearly two days to investigate, so here is a link to my whole thought process and lots of example images and my conclusion on my blog.

-- hide signature --

It's more important how an image looks as a thumbnail than how it looks at 100%.
http://inthemistphoto.com

Thanks for posting your findings, what you've learned, your opinion.  I found clicking on your webpage and reading a little more detail informative (and I'd recommend others click there too).

Sigma wins at wide aperture.  Good to know.  If your priority is shooting at 1.4-2 then the Sigma might be worth the extra money & weight.  Otherwise the Nikon might be "good enough".

Good stuff here.

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InTheMist
OP InTheMist Veteran Member • Posts: 3,078
Re: Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED (FX) vs. Sigma 35mm F/1.4 ART – Conclusion

Nexu1 wrote:

InTheMist wrote:

It took me nearly two days to investigate, so here is a link to my whole thought process and lots of example images and my conclusion on my blog.

Thanks for posting your findings, what you've learned, your opinion. I found clicking on your webpage and reading a little more detail informative (and I'd recommend others click there too).

Sigma wins at wide aperture. Good to know. If your priority is shooting at 1.4-2 then the Sigma might be worth the extra money & weight. Otherwise the Nikon might be "good enough".

Yeah, that's pretty much my summary exactly - unless you shoot landscapes.

Good stuff here.

Thanks for looking!

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jintoku Contributing Member • Posts: 662
Re: Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED (FX) vs. Sigma 35mm F/1.4 ART – Conclusion

Nexu1 wrote:

InTheMist wrote:

It took me nearly two days to investigate, so here is a link to my whole thought process and lots of example images and my conclusion on my blog.

Thanks for posting your findings, what you've learned, your opinion. I found clicking on your webpage and reading a little more detail informative (and I'd recommend others click there too).

Sigma wins at wide aperture. Good to know. If your priority is shooting at 1.4-2 then the Sigma might be worth the extra money & weight. Otherwise the Nikon might be "good enough".

Good stuff here.

Amazing. This was my speculation all along, that the Sigma is in fact larger aperture than it claims. To summarize your conclusion then, it seems that at the same true aperture the sigma is sharper, although the numbers on the lens or. Camera at that point claim that the sigma has been set to a larger aperture. set at f1.8, the Nikon appears sharper, but only because the Sigma is in fact wider open (by how much do you guess? A half stop?).

As a side, I wonder if something similar is true for the 24-105...

Oh and thanks for reminding me of the beauty of Switzerland.

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InTheMist
OP InTheMist Veteran Member • Posts: 3,078
Re: Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED (FX) vs. Sigma 35mm F/1.4 ART – Conclusion

jintoku wrote:

Nexu1 wrote:

InTheMist wrote:

It took me nearly two days to investigate, so here is a link to my whole thought process and lots of example images and my conclusion on my blog.

Thanks for posting your findings, what you've learned, your opinion. I found clicking on your webpage and reading a little more detail informative (and I'd recommend others click there too).

Sigma wins at wide aperture. Good to know. If your priority is shooting at 1.4-2 then the Sigma might be worth the extra money & weight. Otherwise the Nikon might be "good enough".

Good stuff here.

Amazing. This was my speculation all along, that the Sigma is in fact larger aperture than it claims. To summarize your conclusion then, it seems that at the same true aperture the sigma is sharper, although the numbers on the lens or. Camera at that point claim that the sigma has been set to a larger aperture. set at f1.8, the Nikon appears sharper, but only because the Sigma is in fact wider open (by how much do you guess? A half stop?).

As a side, I wonder if something similar is true for the 24-105...

Oh and thanks for reminding me of the beauty of Switzerland.

I think that at the same ... let's say shutter speed, that the Nikon still has a small edge at the edge of the frame, but its not as dramatic as I thought early in testing.  It does seem to be somewhat dependent on how far the subject is from the camera.  Closer is advantage for Sigma; Farther, Nikon.

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TQGroup
TQGroup Senior Member • Posts: 2,038
Re: Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED (FX) vs. Sigma 35mm F/1.4 ART – Conclusion

InTheMist wrote:

I think that at the same ... let's say shutter speed, that the Nikon still has a small edge at the edge of the frame, but its not as dramatic as I thought early in testing. It does seem to be somewhat dependent on how far the subject is from the camera. Closer is advantage for Sigma; Farther, Nikon.

Thank you so very much for this definitive analysis!

Your work supports other "comprehensive real world analysis" against the limited but highly publicized results from the "flat earth laboratory conditions test chart score" aficionados.

We are so lucky to have two great lenses to choose from depending on where our priorities lie and your work has just made this choice more certain.

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inasir1971
inasir1971 Veteran Member • Posts: 3,708
Re: Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED (FX) vs. Sigma 35mm F/1.4 ART – Conclusion

InTheMist wrote:

Hi Everyone,

After going back and forth for weeks about these two lenses, I've finally come to the definitive conclusion: The Nikkor is sharper at the edges of the frame, but the Sigma renders better at large apertures.

You may remember in a previous test, that I couldn't explain why the bokeh from the Sigma was larger.

In fact, I found that at equivalent apertures, set by my trusty D800, the Sigma had constantly shallower depth of field, bigger bokeh and usually faster shutter speed while the Nikkor was sharper away from the centre of the frame, and had deeper depth of field.

All examples shot using live-view autofocus, confirmed with multiple shots.

Nikon at f/1.8

Sigma at f/1.8

It took me nearly two days to investigate, so here is a link to my whole thought process and lots of example images and my conclusion on my blog.

The Sigma has a significantly shorter exposure 1/60 @ ISO 100 vs 1/40 @ ISO 100 indicating that the aperture is larger.

The most probable explanation is that the Sigma's aperture lever is mis-calibrated. With Nikon's mechanical linkage for aperture control this is common, particularly with third party lenses. If you want to check, select 'A' mode, set aperture to 1.4 on the Sigma, and engage live view. Observe the physical aperture by looking into the lens from the front and turn the dial to close the aperture. My guess is that the Sigma won't start to close the aperture till f/1.8 (i.e. there will be no change from f/1.4 to f/1.6 or even f/1.8).

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anotherMike Forum Pro • Posts: 10,099
Re: Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED (FX) vs. Sigma 35mm F/1.4 ART – Conclusion
1

I think it's transmission differences more than aperture calibration issues. I checked your test and saw minor differences between 1.4 - 1.6 - 1.8 - 2.0

I think the author of the OP did a fair job - and he realizes now how hard it is to properly test (2 days ain't even close enough to what is needed if one is serious), but field curvature and the differences there are more responsible for sharpness in particular zones than the two lenses having different physical apertures. The glass types are different (I would bet the Sigma is not using Hikari product; more likely Ohara product, for starters) and the design goals, including correction for SA are likely different too. Not saying there aren't some subtle differences in physical aperture, but the odds are there are other factors at play here.

-m

PHXAZCRAIG
PHXAZCRAIG Forum Pro • Posts: 17,069
T-stop?

Anyone know what the T-stop is for each lens?

If the Sigma has a different t-stop than the Nikon, it's going to allow more or less light through for a given shutter speed and aperture, and a camera should meter accordingly.   Then the two lenses will end up with either different aperture or shutter speed given the same scene and lighting.

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jintoku Contributing Member • Posts: 662
Re: Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED (FX) vs. Sigma 35mm F/1.4 ART – Conclusion
1

anotherMike wrote:

I think it's transmission differences more than aperture calibration issues. I checked your test and saw minor differences between 1.4 - 1.6 - 1.8 - 2.0

I think the author of the OP did a fair job - and he realizes now how hard it is to properly test (2 days ain't even close enough to what is needed if one is serious), but field curvature and the differences there are more responsible for sharpness in particular zones than the two lenses having different physical apertures. The glass types are different (I would bet the Sigma is not using Hikari product; more likely Ohara product, for starters) and the design goals, including correction for SA are likely different too. Not saying there aren't some subtle differences in physical aperture, but the odds are there are other factors at play here.

-m

Transmission differences can't account for the equal size of OOF point sources given differing f-values as seen in the inthemist bog shots. Smells more like an aperture mid calibration issue with one or both of the lenses to me.

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anotherMike Forum Pro • Posts: 10,099
Re: Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED (FX) vs. Sigma 35mm F/1.4 ART – Conclusion

Good question on that one. I'm not a lens designer, but I'm thinking/guessing that how the lens is corrected for SA might be to explain why the OOF bokeh sizes are similar at different apertures. Unfortunately unless Joseph W (or even rarer, Brian Caldwell) chimes in, we won't know.There definitely are differences - at any aperture - in terms of how much light gets through. I don't think the sharpness differences, however, are caused by aperture calibration issues, but rather differing field curvature and other aberrations.

-m

jintoku Contributing Member • Posts: 662
Re: Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED (FX) vs. Sigma 35mm F/1.4 ART – Conclusion

One bizarre thing I noticed is that when flicking between the two f1.8 pics of the test scene (the one with the sitting frog and painting and tree lights in the background) it seems like the scenes captured by the two scenes are rotated by a few degrees around a vertical axis in the center of the frame...

Unless this is an artifact of the testing setup (and I can't really imagine how one could achieve that even if one wanted to), it is quite worrisome that one of the lenses exhibits such a stark geometrical shift.

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InTheMist
OP InTheMist Veteran Member • Posts: 3,078
Re: Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED (FX) vs. Sigma 35mm F/1.4 ART – Conclusion

jintoku wrote:

One bizarre thing I noticed is that when flicking between the two f1.8 pics of the test scene (the one with the sitting frog and painting and tree lights in the background) it seems like the scenes captured by the two scenes are rotated by a few degrees around a vertical axis in the center of the frame...

Unless this is an artifact of the testing setup (and I can't really imagine how one could achieve that even if one wanted to), it is quite worrisome that one of the lenses exhibits such a stark geometrical shift.

It's distortion.  Nothing moved in that room except the lens.

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jintoku Contributing Member • Posts: 662
Re: Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED (FX) vs. Sigma 35mm F/1.4 ART – Conclusion

jintoku wrote:

One bizarre thing I noticed is that when flicking between the two f1.8 pics of the test scene (the one with the sitting frog and painting and tree lights in the background) it seems like the scenes captured by the two scenes are rotated by a few degrees around a vertical axis in the center of the frame...

Unless this is an artifact of the testing setup (and I can't really imagine how one could achieve that even if one wanted to), it is quite worrisome that one of the lenses exhibits such a stark geometrical shift.

It's distortion.  Nothing moved in that room except the lens.

Interesting -- the distortion seems to be limited to gone at higher aperture values.

Again, awesome test effort. I find your write up very useful. Thanks.

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InTheMist
OP InTheMist Veteran Member • Posts: 3,078
Re: Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED (FX) vs. Sigma 35mm F/1.4 ART – Conclusion

jintoku wrote:

Transmission differences can't account for the equal size of OOF point sources given differing f-values as seen in the inthemist bog shots. Smells more like an aperture mid calibration issue with one or both of the lenses to me.

Don't forget that there is nothing to calibrate wide open.  Aperture blades don't come into play until it's stopped down a little.  That said, in these examples, I always shot the Sigma at f/1.8 instead of its maximum f/1.4 so if there is blame to be laid, it would be on the Sigma.  Frankly, I  suspect that Nikon is fudging on the f/1.8 claim a bit - probably closer to f/2 or 2.x in reality.  I don't have a light meter, or I try to troubleshoot a bit more.

I had thought to test some of my other primes or 2.8 zooms to compare, but the vignetting of my other lenses at f/2.8 would throw off the light meter.

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elliotn Senior Member • Posts: 2,308
Re: Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED (FX) vs. Sigma 35mm F/1.4 ART – Conclusion

Thank you for doing these tests and providing the high res images for download.

I've just spent an hour pixel-peeping and overall I prefer the Nikon images.

Based on your tests I'd say that the Nikon is the better all-round lens, and that the Sigma is only to be preferred if razor thin DOF (f1.4, f1.8) is your thing.

InTheMist
OP InTheMist Veteran Member • Posts: 3,078
Re: Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED (FX) vs. Sigma 35mm F/1.4 ART – Conclusion

elliotn wrote:

Thank you for doing these tests and providing the high res images for download.

I've just spent an hour pixel-peeping and overall I prefer the Nikon images.

Based on your tests I'd say that the Nikon is the better all-round lens, and that the Sigma is only to be preferred if razor thin DOF (f1.4, f1.8) is your thing.

Funny you say that, I prefer the rendering of the Sigma.  BUT, I spent four hours today at a classic car meeting walking around and it was the smaller, lighter Nikkor that I had on my Df.

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elliotn Senior Member • Posts: 2,308
Re: Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED (FX) vs. Sigma 35mm F/1.4 ART – Conclusion

InTheMist wrote:

elliotn wrote:

Thank you for doing these tests and providing the high res images for download.

I've just spent an hour pixel-peeping and overall I prefer the Nikon images.

Based on your tests I'd say that the Nikon is the better all-round lens, and that the Sigma is only to be preferred if razor thin DOF (f1.4, f1.8) is your thing.

Funny you say that, I prefer the rendering of the Sigma. BUT, I spent four hours today at a classic car meeting walking around and it was the smaller, lighter Nikkor that I had on my Df.

It's the first shot you posted here (f11 landscape image of field/road/mountains) where the Nikon seems to clearly outperform the Sigma. That's one of my common use scenarios (i.e. f11 at distance).

My other common use would be environmental portraits, between f2.8 and f8. I don't see anything in your tests which suggests the Sigma would be better for this usage.

Wide open, I can see that the Sigma can do something that the Nikon can't - but that very shallow depth of field style isn't my cup of tea.

jintoku Contributing Member • Posts: 662
Re: Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED (FX) vs. Sigma 35mm F/1.4 ART – Conclusion

Can you get a hold on the Nikon 35mm f1.4 to get some more data on whether Sigma is being too conservative in their aperture calibration of the f1.4 ART or whether Nikon was being too aggressive with the new f1.8 lens? Alternatively, the 35mm f2.0 Zeiss?

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jintoku Contributing Member • Posts: 662
Re: Nikon 35mm f/1.8G ED (FX) vs. Sigma 35mm F/1.4 ART – Conclusion

To the original poster: here's one more thing I'm confused about. In the original comparison you posted on your blog and here you compared wide-open shots of batteries and text. What was already evident there was that there is an aperture calibration issue between the two lenses (the background looked more blurry in the Sigma). However what was also pretty clear was that the Sigma had higher central sharpness. I posted crops of your original images in this thread: Link to other dpreview thread . I thought the Sigma sharpness and micro contrast advantage there was actually quite dramatic.

So that has me quite confused. Did you not notice any of these central sharpness advantages in the Sigma in your more recent test run? I assume you used the same lenses and neither had been exchanged for a different copy since the first tests?

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